Theodor Panofka  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Theodor Sigismund Panofka (25 February 1800, Breslau - 20 June 1858, Berlin) was one of the first scholars to make a systemic study of the pottery of Ancient Greece, and one of the founders of the institution later to become the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches archäologisches Institut).



Panofka studied classical philology at Berlin University from 1819. In 1823 he travelled to Rome and a year later - along with the painter Otto Magnus von Stackelberg (1787-1837), the art writer and collector August Kestner and the classical art historian Eduard Gerhard - founded the "Hyperboreans" (Hyperboreisch-römische Gesellschaft), a group of northern European scholars who studied classical ruins in Rome. In Rome, Panofka's intelligence drew attention and patronage from the Duc de Blacas (1770-1839), the French ambassador to the Papal States, and a collector of antiquities, with whom Panofka remained upon the duke's 1828 return to Paris. When a year later the "Hyperboreans" metamorphosed into the Instituto di Corrispondenza Archaeologica, Panofka was named the new organisation's secretary for its members in Paris.

Panofka travelled to southern Italy, where he became involved in the antiquities collection of the Museo Nazionale in Naples, in particular cataloguing its vases of the museum. (At the same time, Gerhard was cataloguing the classical sculpture.) On his subsequent return to Paris, Panofka published these researchs on Greek pottery as Recherches sur les véritables noms des vases grecs (Researches on the true names of Greek vases).

However, by 1836, he had moved to work at the Royal Museum in Berlin, where his knowledge of classical vases eventually led to his being appointed curator of the vase collection. Despite his growing deafness, and his becoming less and less able to support himself on the museum's wages, Panofka managed to publish Terracotten des königlichen Museums zu Berlin (Terracottas of the Royal Museum in Berlin) in 1842, and a philological study of the figure of the African in the cult of Delphi in 1849. The latter was ahead of its time, in that nobody had yet realised the relation of Delphi with Egypt. He had become Professor of Archaeology at Berlin University in 1844 and in 1856, two years before his death, became Conservator of the Museum's vases collection (Vasensammlung). He died in Berlin at 58.


  • 1826 - 1834 Personal tutor of the Duke of Blacas (whilst in Paris), and Foreign Secretary of the French section of the Archeological Institute in Rome (whilst in Naples).
  • 1836 Assistant at the Royal Museum in Berlin
  • 1844 Professor of Archaeology at Berlin University
  • 1856 Conservator of the Royal Museum's vases collection (Vasensammlung) in Berlin


Later scholars have demonstrated that Panofka was overly subjective on his judgment of vases and made numerous errors. However, in spite of this criticism, his support for intellectual societies, in particular the early Instituto di Corrispondenza Archaeologica in Rome, was important preliminaries the inception of the present German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches archäologisches Institut) in 1871, which lasts to this day as the intellectual organization for German classical research.

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